Troubling data from the Republic Office for Statistics (RZS) in the period from 2007-2008 suggests that in each year approximately 30,000 persons were let out of some kind of institution which constitutes a deprivation of liberty, such as detention centers, prison, behavioral institutions, or specific prison hospitals. If the family members of these people are also taken into account, it is evident that about 100,000 people a year in Serbia feel the effects of the aforementioned institutions. These numbers, to which is also necessary to take into account a high degree of recidivism (about 70%), make it clear that something must change.
The center for criminal prevention and post-penal assistance, NEOSTART, was founded on December 10, 2012, with precisely the goal of transforming the current status of post-penal treatment in Serbia. At the time the organization was founded no formal or informal institutions and organizations existed which were aimed at offering support to those who have completed their term in prison. The first activities of NEOSTART revolved around organizing a much needed volunteer engagement, and then to further develop that engagement while supporting outside actors who have recognized the importance of NEOSTART’s activities.
The areas in which the organization is currently working to achieve its goals are:
- Social protection
- The protection of people’s rights
- Prevention of criminality
- Post-Penal assistance
NEOSTART’s first program was the SOS Line which continues to function today, and which at the moment is the only one of its kind in the realm of post-penal assistance. Today NEOSTART boasts well developed programs and a large number of volunteers. However, the greatest accomplishment of the organization in the eyes of the NEOSTART team is the growing number of clients which pass through our programs.
In September 2014 new laws concerning the execution of criminal sanctions and the execution of probationary sanctions came into effect, and thereby opened a new chapter in the development of post-penal treatment. NEOSTART has been recognized by the management for the execution of criminal sanctions as a worthy contributor to the development of post-penal acceptance practices, and which has been made official in a memorandum of cooperation. Today our programs are conducted with the full support and cooperation of the parole offices in Belgrade.